x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

What's your child's learning style?

We look at different ways parents can assess and nurture their children's learning potential, based on their interests and personality.

Children whose learning style is kinaesthetic are usually good at hands-on activities. iStock
Children whose learning style is kinaesthetic are usually good at hands-on activities. iStock

Does your child favour singing songs, playing with blocks or listening to stories? His preferred pastime may give you a clue to his natural learning style, which commonly falls into three areas: visual, auditory or kinaesthetic.

Put simply, auditory learners like to learn by hearing, visual learners by watching, and kinaesthetic learners by physically doing.

But why should this be of any concern to a parent?

"If parents discover a child's learning style, it will enable them to improve their child's learning experiences within their academic environment," says Naeema Jiwani, a child development psychologist at the Human Relations Institute in Dubai (www.hridubai.com). "Finding out about your child's learning style will also enable you to help with your child's homework or develop his interest in a new subject."

Indeed, Howard Gardner, an expert in the subject and a professor at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, believes children have different, natural ways of learning, and that parents and teachers who are aware of how children learn can greatly enhance this process.

If you watch your child as he plays, you should be able to deduce which learning style he is most comfortable with. Observe as he tries to explain how to do something to another child: auditory learners may tell them how to do it, visual learners may show how to do it, while kinaesthetic learners may try to get the child involved.

Even if your child is still very young, there's a good chance you will be able to identify his learning style.

"A child is born with a unique temperament that can be distinguished even from the age of two months," says Jiwani. "Anxious and fussy children can be told apart from calm and relaxed children. This temperament can become more pronounced over time, which also affects their learning style. A child's true learning style can be noticed when they're as young as three."

Although most children fall into one of the categories, there may be some overlap between two different styles. Approximately 40 per cent of students fall within the visual learning style, 50 per cent within the kinaesthetic learning style, and a much smaller percentage, only 10 per cent, fall within the auditory learning style.


How they learn

These children prefer to visualise objects and learn through images. They like to play with Lego, puzzles and other building toys. They also like to daydream and often communicate through rich fantasies. Older children may prefer to process new information by reading, looking at graphics or watching a demonstration, and may grow impatient when listening to an explanation.

How you can help

Encourage your child to draw out stories or use art to illustrate concepts within different subjects. Colours, shapes and flash cards can also be used to help the "picture" stick in your child's mind. Try to be creative – if your child resists studying her spelling words, ask her to spell the words on a table using Scrabble tiles. Being aware of your child's learning style can reduce homework battles and strengthen parent-child relationships. It's also worth passing on knowledge about your child's learning style to his teacher so they can use that information to teach more effectively.

Homework tips

• Use flash cards.

• Draw mind-maps, flow diagrams and timelines, if appropriate.

• Highlight and underline.

• Use charts, tables and maps whenever relevant.

• Colour-code information.



How they learn

Kinaesthetic learners find it easier to understand information by writing it down or through hands-on activities. They like being active, may have trouble sitting still in the classroom and often excel at sports. They tend to use gestures when they talk.

How you can help

"These children should be allowed to move around while they read or do their homework, instead of insisting on them keeping still," explains Jiwani. "Arts and crafts and sports activities are good ways to engage a kinaesthetic child."

It's important to help your child get to grips with different learning styles because he won't always be educated in his preferred style.

"An almost equal emphasis is placed on the three learning styles in the earlier years (grades one through to six). However, the emphasis shifts towards the auditory style of learning during the later years (grades six and above) making it difficult for the 90 per cent who are not auditory learners to get high grades," explains Jiwani. Once your child has grasped a subject, try to follow it up at home in a different learning style so he gets accustomed to learning in ways that don't come naturally to him.

Homework tips

• Encourage your child to read aloud and track words on a page with his finger.

• Write things down multiple times to commit them to memory.

• Use flash cards.

• Study with friends.

• Highlight and underline.

• Try playing with a stress ball or toy while studying.

• Adopt hands-on activities, such as building models or playing games.

• Study in short blocks and take frequent, short breaks.



How they learn

Auditory learners prefer listening to explanations rather than reading them, and may like to study by reciting aloud. This type of learner has an excellent memory for facts, trivia, names and dates, and excels at spelling. They also enjoy storytelling. These children tend to talk to themselves.

How you can help

Parents can stimulate their child with word games, which they can play out loud as they learn their material.

"Turning material into a song is helpful for these children, because it encourages them to tell stories with different endings, allowing them to practise their verbal skills," says Jiwani.

Homework tips

• Use word associations.

• Encourage your child to talk about what he's learning.

• Limit distracting noises.

• Repeat facts with eyes closed.

• Watch relevant, educational video clips.

• Recite important information aloud, perhaps recording it and playing it back.